My Oberon and Lope Y Fernandez are likely to clash in next month's Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury after each recorded fluent wins on Wednesday.
My Oberon made an impressive winning start to his campaign in the bet365 Earl Of Sefton Stakes at Newmarket.
The William Haggas-trained colt shaped with considerable promise as a three-year-old last season, with victory at York followed by successive runner-up finishes at this Group Three level in the Thoroughbred Stakes at Goodwood and the Superior Mile at Haydock.
Making his first appearance since finishing fifth in Listed company at Redcar in October, My Oberon was a 7-1 shot against just three rivals on the Rowley Mile – and looks set for a profitable campaign, judged on a clear-cut success.
Always travelling strongly in the hands of James Doyle, the Dubawi colt quickened up smartly to reel in the pace-setting Marie’s Diamond before pulling two and a half lengths clear.
Watch a full replay of the Earl of Sefton
Global Giant, the 10-11 favourite to provide Frankie Dettori with a comeback winner on his first ride in Britain this year, finished last of the quartet.
Haggas said of the winner: “We always hoped he’d be a nice horse. He’s out of a nice Group-winning mare – and being by Dubawi, they get better with age.
“That was a good start. He ran well against Top Rank last season – and he’d won well with a penalty at Doncaster.
Bookmakers Paddy Power responded by shortening My Oberon to 6-1 from 20-1 for the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes – and Haggas confirmed next month’s Group One is the target.
“I think we’ll go to the Lockinge now – that looks very likely,” he said. “There doesn’t appear to be a stand-out miler this season.
“I’m quite keen at some stage this season to get him up to 10 furlongs, but I want to run him in a Group One now and try and make him a stallion – so the Lockinge is the obvious one.
“I think he handles soft ground, and obviously Dubawis go on it.
“I haven’t watched a replay yet, so I don’t know if it was the front two getting at it too far out and us picking up the pieces or whether we quickened all the way home. Either way, it was a nice start.”
Lope Y Fernandez comfortably produced a long-awaited victory when taking the one-mile Listed Heritage Stakes at Leopardstown.
The four-year-old was twice a winner in his juvenile season, claiming the Group Three Round Tower Stakes at the Curragh and placing twice behind Godolphin’s champion two-year-old Pinatubo.
O'Brien spoke to Fran Berry about Lope Y Fernandez
Success as a three-year-old was elusive, however, as the bay gamely plied his trade in Ireland, England, France and America and was unable to bring home a triumph.
A move to slightly less exalted company left him the 4-6 favourite at Leopardstown, an estimation he readily justified when cruising to a five-and-a-half-length win under Seamie Heffernan.
“Last year we messed around with his trip a good bit,” trainer Aidan O’Brien explained. “We didn’t learn what it was until the end at the Breeders Cup.
“He’s a miler and you take your time with him. He’s at his best when he’s able to quicken and likes nice ground. We’re thinking about going to the Lockinge with him, then possibly the Queen Anne Stakes.”
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